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Siebert Reversed

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The Supreme Court, 7-2, summarily reversed a decision of the Eleventh Circuit in Allen v. Siebert this morning. The 11th's opinions in the case can be found at 334 F.3d 1018 and 480 F.3d 1089.

A state prisoner has one year from the completion of his direct appeal to file a federal habeas petition, but the period is tolled during the pendency of a "properly filed" state collateral review petition. Untimely petitions are not properly filed for this purpose. The Supreme Court said in Pace v. DiGuglielmo, 544 U.S. 408, 414 (2005), "When a postconviction petition is untimely under state law, 'that [is] the end of the matter' for purposes of [28 U.S.C.] ยง 2244(d)(2)," quoting Carey v. Saffold, 536 U.S. 214, 226 (2002). The Eleventh Circuit tried to weasel its way around this unequivocal holding by distinguishing jurisdictional time limits, like the one in Pace, from nonjurisdictional ones, ignoring the facts that (1) Saffold also involved a nonjurisdictional limit, and (2) the jurisdictional nature of the limit in Pace was barely mentioned in the opinion and no part of the analysis.

Today's decision is an appropriate rebuke of this evasion of controlling precedent. It is also a vindication for the district judge, who correctly read Pace as inconsistent with the Eleventh's first opinion in this case, only to be tersely reversed by a now-discredited opinion by Judge Barkett.

CJLF filed an amicus brief in support of the State of Alabama in this case.

1 Comment

I don't get the dissent. So what if the state court could forgive the late filing? Does that mean that filings ultimately held to be filed past the deadline (i.e., not properly filed) somehow become properly filed? That's some interesting judicial legerdemain.

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